Stronger than Addiction


The words died on Misaki's lips. Usagi'd fallen asleep working again. An ash tray on the coffee table showed the remnants of the man's apparent writer's block.

Six! Six cigarettes in eight hours! He would kill himself at this rate! That was it! Misaki would make him stop.

He threw out the long cold butts, holding his breath. He thought of waking Usagi when something on the TV caught his eye.

"…smokeless cigarette by Vaposmoke! Smoke virtually anywhere completely safely. Tastes and satisfies like the real thing, though you're only using water vapor. Other products can cost up to 26,000 yen ($350). With Vaposmoke you pay only 4,952($65.00)! Call right now and you'll get Vaposmoke smokeless cigarette plus four cartridge refills and two battery chargers! That's a 30,000 yen value! If you're ready to take control, don't wait, call now!"

Misaki rushed to scribble down the number going across the screen. This must be it, his solution to Usagi's problem. He had just enough to cover the cost itself. Shipping on the other hand would be an issue.

'I don't want to bother Nii-san with it…maybe Isaka-san can help…No, I have to do this alone, certainly not with help from that man. I'm getting my paycheck next week. That should cover it…just in time for St. Valentine's day too.'

"What's this?" The silver haired male waved a scrap of torn paper before Misaki's face. A phone number was scrawled messily on it.

A panicked look flashed in the boy's green eyes. He snatched it.

"A phone number, what's it look like?" He moved away from Usagi. "Eat, I need to leave early today."

A large hand hit the wall behind him, trapping Misaki there.

"What for?"

"Why do you need to know?"Misaki countered.

The silver haired man leaned forward, almost to Misaki's ear. "What are you hiding?" His whisper made Misaki's heart begin to race.

Misaki pushed him back. "Nothing, it's a number for work."

After a long look, Usagi released him.

Misaki sat down in front of the library's computer. He intended to find out whether the E-cigarette was worth the 5,000 yen. He'd just pulled up a worthy looking website and scanned through it when he heard his name.

"Uh…Nii-san! What are you doing here?" he asked his older brother, Takahiro.

"I came to look for some reference material actually, for work. You?" He looked at the computer screen. "You haven't -"

"No of course not! This is for Usagi-san. I plan to make him quit smoking whether he likes it or not. It's a surprise though."

Takahiro laughed. "I can guarantee he won't like it. You know those things are very pricy, right? You're sure you can afford it?"

"I'm 19, Nii-san. Besides, I've been saving."

He smiled. "Okay, I forget sometimes that your in college now. Well, since we're both here, how 'bout going to eat? I haven't seen you in so long!"

"But your wife…?"

"Don't worry. She's out on business tonight."

"Oh, okay sure. I should call Usagi-san though so he knows where I am."

"Of course."

Misaki stood by the payphone outside a café, Takahiro and he had chosen while Takahiro ordered.

"Hello?" came Usagi's smooth voice.

"Hi, it's Misaki. I happened to run into Nii-san at the library and he suggested we get a bite to eat. Are you okay eating on your own, tonight?"

"Sure, if it's just Takahiro. Besides, Aikawa barged in again."

Misaki didn't know what made him say this, but, "Usagi-san, I'm sorry for this morning…"

"Don't worry about it. Have a good time with Takahiro, and say hi to him for me, will you?"

"Are you okay, Usagi-san?"

"Yeah, just tired. Aikawa's yelling at me, sorry Misaki. Come home safely."

He hung up, but something bothered Misaki. Something wasn't right with Usagi-san.

"It smells so good!"Misaki said, coming to sit across from his brother. "Usagi-san says hi by the way."

"Did he want to join us?" Takahiro asked.

"Apparently Aikawa has him under house arrest till he finishes his manuscript."

Takahiro laughed. "That'd be her." He paused to watch Misaki for a moment.

"You really like living there, Misaki?"

Surprised by the question, Misaki finished chewing while trying to come up with a decent answer.

"Yeah, besides, without me he'd be helpless. I don't know how he managed before."

"No, I mean, are you really happy with him, Misaki?"

The way he said it made it sound…

"Yes, I am happy living with him. You don't need to worry Nii-san."

Takahiro smiled. "Okay, I know you're in good care there. But, Misaki, about that thing for him. you shouldn't have to pay it all yourself. God knows I'd love him to quit smoking, especially with you there. Let me pay half."

Misaki finished his last bite. "Nii-san, I already have it covered but shipping and I'll have enough next week for that too."

"Misaki, let me pay shipping at least then. Usagi's my friend too and he definitely needs to quit."

No argument there..

On the walk back to Usagi's, Takahiro insisted on giving Misaki the cash for shipping. He would order it as soon as he got the chance which came the next morning.

~3 days later~

"What's this?" Usagi held a smallish shipping box. "And who sent it to you?"

Misaki knew well what the box held, but should he wait till later to give it to him?

"Uh, it's for you actually," mumbled Misaki.

"It has your name on it."

"It's for you, from me. Happy Valentine's day!"

For once he looked genuinely surprised, his violet eyes going wide.

"Aren't you going to open it?" Misaki asked.

Once it lay open, exposing the manufacturers box, Usagi seemed even more shocked.

"This was so expensive…how did you?"

"I saved and Nii-san insisted on helping when he caught me looking it up at the library."

Usagi pushed the package to Misaki. "Return it, I won't use it."

"No!" he pushed it back to Usagi. "Why do I have to take tons of expensive gifts from you, but you won't take one pricy thing from me?"

"Because I don't need it."

"Yes, you do!" Misaki felt angry heat rush to his cheeks. He kept his eyes down.

"Why do you care?" Usagi asked, both irritation and curiosity in his perfect voice.

"Because I…"

'What the hell am I doing? Why should I tell him…that?'

"Look at the time, I gotta go or I'll be late!" Misaki scrambled.

A long strong arm caught his.

"Misaki, I'll use it and quit smoking if you tell me those three words I want to hear so badly."

What? How the hell is that fair?

Rain had just begun to fall when Misaki ran out to the red sports car that waited for him by the sidewalk. The silver haired man in the driver's seat smoked a cigarette.

"We're taking a more scenic route back today," Usagi said after Misaki climbed in.

"In the rain?"

"Why not?"

"Fine, whatever." Misaki was still ticked over this morning's argument.

After a few minutes Misaki spoke, trying to contain his irritation. "Why are you smoking that junk?"

"Because you still haven't told me what I want to hear," the man answered.

Misaki went back to brooding. His annoyance grew until he snapped.

"Stop! Stop! Stop it! Baka!" Misaki yelled.

Out of surprise, Usagi turned, where Misaki seized his chance. He snatched the cigarette from Usagi's mouth before he had time to react and chucked it out the window.

"What the hell…Are you stupid?" The car swerved a bit.

"Baka! Pay attention to the road."

Usagi pulled over and with quite more force than necessary, shoved the car into park.

"Out, now."

He's pissed.

"Usagi-san, I…" Misaki followed him out into the rain.

Usagi stood in the rain, lighting up another cigarette.

Usagi rounded on the boy. "Why do you hate it so much when I smoke? It's not your business."

"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! That crap will kill you! I don't want to lose you – can't!" Tears came faster than he could stop them and soon he became a sobbing wreck. He sank to his knees in the soggy dirt.

"Baka Usagi! Baka! I love you, dammit! I love you, I love you!" More sobs tore through him, shaking his body until he could barely hold himself up. "I said it, are you hap -"

Warm arms pulled him in and wrapped him tightly. Usagi's smooth voice murmured in his ear.

"So happy you have no idea."

When Misaki had stopped shaking at least, Usagi stood.

"As promised this has been my last cigarette." He dropped and mashed it into the wet soggy ground with his shoe.

Right there parked on the side of the road, windows steamed up, Usagi kissed away Misaki's frustrated tears and fears.